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Summer of The Vacuous 

These are women?

If isolated in a Petri dish somewhere, it's a virus that spreads through broadcast airwaves and magazines, infecting otherwise intelligent female life with a preoccupation with bling-bling and media overexposure. It's the Vacuous Virus.

First spotted in braintrusts like the Hilton sisters, Britney Spears, and Jessica Simpson, even the mildest of feminists can no longer say, "You've come a long, way baby!" Rather, their eyes have rolled so far back in their heads, they're unable to speak at all, baby.

No, 2004 is the Summer of the Vacuous, where young women in the national spotlight have re-awakened the dumb broad stereotype, but in interesting new ways. We all know about Simpson's boneheaded remarks that show how cup size outweighs IQ on MTV, and Paris Hilton's second season of The Simple Life on Fox reinforces the idea that millionaire heiresses can survive a sex porn tape and still be "style icons" in the likes of Vogue.

Vacuity isn't just reserved these days for rich and famous chicks. The people who produce much of reality TV seem to really hate women, and try to find either the vapid or the witch for their shows. From Jerri Mathey on Survivor to The Apprentice's Omarosa, their ingenuity plays out on TV as backstabbing bitchiness. (Which is what women are really like anyway, right?)

The worst offenders with the least self-respect, and apparently misinformed that reality TV is your way to long-lasting fame, are the hordes of fiancee wannabe's on the various romance reality shows like The Bachelor and For Love or Money. The drama always sets up the nasty girls against the "nice" girls, most without a brain in their heads, or at least none they want to show on TV.

You'd hope that the trend will pass, and the smart girl is seen as sexier than the clueless one, but a remark overheard at an eatery the other day makes you wonder. A group of teenaged girls, aged 14 or so, were talking about boys, we presume, when one said "Boys like us better when we act silly, right?" Sigh.

WCCB-TV got the most Promax awards of any local station in the country at an annual awards ceremony in New York last Thursday. Promax, you ask? It honors people who produce promos and marketing for all electronic media. You may not like Fox Charlotte's newscasts, but their promos have always been cutting-edge.

Stay tuned.

E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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